Viva España!!

I am very excited to be returning to Spain this spring.  I plan to travel in Madrid, Salamanca, Barcelona and hopefully to Portugal and Italy as well.  I will be teaching English with a terrific organization in Salamanca, and look forward to meeting some great new students!

I will also be working on various fitness projects, including research on the role of Physical Education and Health Education in Spanish communities and schools.  I would like to study what principles and practices are in place that help foster positive physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual growth specifically in children but also in adults.

Some topics I will be covering:

What types of activities in the community do children participate in? How are girls and women supported in athletics?  What types of mental services are available to students in schools and the community?  How do young people interact socially?  How has social media affected teenagers?  What role does religion play in the lives of young people? How do parents communicate with their children?  Are there unique characteristics of social and physical interaction between Spanish parents and children?  What role does exercise play in the lives of adults?  How has the new smoking laws affected Spanish lifestyle or health? (Spain FINALLY just passed legislation prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars, near hospitals, and school playgrounds.)

Riding on the tails of this past summer's World Cup victory, I am interested in finding out what else the Spaniards do for exercise besides fútbol!

Regarding nutrition in Spain, I found that the Spanish easily resist the fast food industry.  Based on my last visit, I observed their ability to place greater importance on cooking with minimal distractions, and instead to rely solely on the natural flavors and spices of food.  It was very refreshing to see families eating together as one unit, without televisions blaring, and without teens texting under the table.  I loved watching the families eat together, serving one another delicious paella from a very large pan and enjoying every morsel!  They certainly eat slowly, to savor every bite!   

Another amusing thing I observed in families was their drinking habits.  No, no! Not the alcoholic kind!  They would split one can of soda between say five people!   I stared in amazement as they quenched their thirst with a tiny sip of cola.  These people were like cacti plants!  It took all my willpower to not devour a whole can in one gulp, like a typical American would.  I appreciate the idea of not drinking a lot of soda. I also liked that children are taught not to drink excessive amounts of soda.  

There are approximately 3 grams of sugar in one sugar packet.  As there are 65 grams of sugar in one 20 oz bottle of Coca-Cola, that means there are more than 20 packets of sugar in the soda you drank during lunch!  No matter what your viewpoint is regarding soda and sweet drinks, the fact remains that our nation is in love with sugar.  However, the numbers just don't add up.  We are putting ourselves at unnecessary risk for obesity, lower bone density, tooth decay and possible reproductive difficulties. 

I really don't enjoy drinking soda or juice.  What works for me is number one, always adding lemon to plain water.  Number two, I do not buy individual bottles of water (it's bad for the environment and not very cost effective!).  Instead, I am a big fan of my water filter on the kitchen sink, and use a reusable (BPA-free!) water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.  When I drink regular amounts of water, I notice a difference in the clarity and softness of my skin, less joint pain during workouts, and less fluctuation in my body temperature.   

So let's make like the Spaniards and abstain from soda, fruit juices and alcohol for a week.  See if you can consistently drink eight glasses of (8 oz) water daily.  Can you only drink water for a month?  Try to cook with olive oil and spices such as rosemary, oregano and basil, instead of cheese or sauces (check out the quantity of sugar in a bottle of BBQ sauce!).  Turn off the television, and share your meals with your family.  Enjoy your meal slowly, and listen attentively at the table.  

Buen Provecho!

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